Whither Normal?

Yesterday started at 5:30, when I got up to find Lynn studying a message on her phone: You have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for covid.

That’s the sort of cheery, heart-warming message everyone ought not to start their day with. As Lynn continued with her plans to head to work, while I wondered if that was such a good idea, she found the appropriate protocol: if you have been vaccinated, you go about your life, but wear a mask in public for 14 days.

If Lynn had been exposed, by now that would include me, so I texted Kara, who was getting ready to leave for the weekend, to let her know of the potential exposure.

Then I texted the one person who has been in our house recently, Na Ki’o’s home-visit vet. She had tried, for awhile in the early heady days when all three of us were vaccinated, going without a mask in our house, but after a scare where she came down with covid symptoms elsewhere (just a cold), she went back to wearing a mask while in clients’ homes.

We had all been masked during her Wednesday visit, but of course we had been unmasked prior, spewing aerosols all around, so I thought she should know. She thanked me, and noted she was getting her booster on the 17th.

Then I e-mailed one of my several friends named Mark, who along with his wife has been trying to come to dinner. Just one day earlier I had sent a list of Saturdays that would work for us, including tonight, and now I had to rescind the invitation.

Right after I’d done all this notifying, Lynn sent a text saying her covid warning had disappeared from her phone, and it never made it to her iPad. I reported this to Kara, who said she’d found many reports of scams on Google.

I wasn’t sure how such a scam could make money — send us a gift card, and we’ll tell you you’re negative — but belatedly I wondered if perhaps the text included some sort of link for further instruction that really was a mechanism to download malware on the phone.

I looked up “vanishing covid warnings” on the internet and found that this has been a common problem in Great Britain this fall: the National Health Service blames a glitch in an Apple app. We both tried calling the county, with no response. I e-mailed my friend Karen who volunteers at the call center, and my friend Loren, a Pat’s alum who for some reason thought a fun job would be to become the county’s covid business coordinator, who now spends his days in meetings and getting yelled at by business owners.

In the meantime, I was busily texting Kara about a second shooting inside city limits in the span of five days —

[I don’t know if it’s just a facet of our great new gun culture, but twice on Colorado Street in a week gunfire has broken out: at the Sherpa Motel, site of many drug interactions, an out-of-town man threatened to shoot himself but instead wounded a man cooking dinner. Thursday night police killed a different out-of-town man in his car who instead of talking to approaching officers started ramming their cars and dragging an officer along the pavement.]

— when I saw the briefest of texts across the top of the one I was typing, telling me I had been in close contact with someone who tested positive. Then it vanished, and I couldn’t find it.

Had I not seen Lynn’s, this would have been quite unnerving, this briefest of flashes that I might be a proximate victim of covid. But since we had both seen Lynn’s, I had already masked up and informed all my co-workers. I’d already been wearing a mask on the side of the building our customers come in, since I have no way of knowing who among them comes bearing disease.

Which Colorado has in abundance these days. The numbers vary wildly, so instead of providing any I will note that our governor signed an executive order telling hospitals they can turn away patients and/or transfer anyone they want to whatever hospital they want, and — usurping the role of the CDC, which doesn’t appear to have made any attempt to roll the order back — suggested that every Coloradan over the age of 18 get a booster shot.

We don’t seem to be in such dire straits here in Gunnison County, although public health has hardly been forthcoming. I’m not quite sure why it’s so onerous to type out one paragraph a week listing a case count and reporting on hospitalization status, but I guess it is, because on Nov. 1 public health announced it would only report once every two weeks, since cases had held steady at 21 local and three visitor per week for two consecutive weeks.

At my Skype Across America lunch, a meeting of the minds semi-solved the mystery of the vanishing texts: they could be found in the CO Exposures Notification app that we signed up for many months ago. Despite barely knowing and certainly not understanding what “apps” are, I managed to locate mine, which said my exposure had happened seven days ago.

The one place Lynn and I were together in public seven days ago was the annual scholarship dinner hosted by Western Not State, where we were all public and together with probably 200 people.

What had I been thinking?

I had been thinking that this dinner, which brings together scholarship donors (there’s one in my dad’s name) and recipients together, would feature a president that wasn’t the one on whose account I stopped going to these dinners, and everyone on campus, staff and students, is supposed to be vaccinated. But I did not consider that donors had no such requirement placed on them, nor did it occur to me that the athletic department would be showing complete disdain for the campus mask requirement. Not that it mattered, really: everyone’s masks came off to eat, and almost none of them went back on (ours did).

I went out to sample a slice of normalcy and came back with a contact tracing notice. It’s the state app, which only registers phone location, so it could have been someone clear at the other end of the room. And by the time the notice arrived, it was seven days after the fact — seven days that I could have been passing this along to friends.

Lunch peeps, Karen and Loren all felt that if no symptoms have shown up by now, they are not likely to, but Lynn or I could still be asymptomatic carriers. The earliest date to get a test is Monday, 10 days past exposure, and if we go after 9:45 the tests won’t go out until the following day, due to the road blockage between here and Montrose, with results two to five days after that.

It doesn’t seem worth it. Lynn used one of our home tests (negative), and I’ll do that today, but it’s got me in a pensive mood. I sometimes wonder, as I’m the only one in my fully-vaccinated shop to wear a mask, if I’m missing out on going back to normal. But then I try one evening out, in a place that seemed safe but clearly wasn’t, and it almost backfired.

I keep hearing it’s all about the cost-benefit ratio, and that driving a car is equally statistically dangerous, but I’m nonetheless mad at myself for thinking that going to a large indoor dinner, sitting at a table with probably unvaccinated people, was a good idea. Because it clearly wasn’t.

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